Mexican newspaper bombed

New York, May 31, 2011–Vanguardia, the oldest and largest newspaper in the city Saltillo, in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, was the target of a hand grenade attack on Sunday, according to local press reports. No injuries were reported.

“We condemn the attack against Vanguardia and urge authorities to launch a thorough investigation, establish responsibilities, and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s Americas senior program coordinator.

Unidentified assailants lobbed a grenade at the daily’s building. It was midnight and employees were at work preparing Monday’s paper, the international press said. Thankfully, the explosive only caused minor material damage, the national daily El Universal reported

Vanguardia did not report the grenade in its print or online editions due to fear of more attacks. Federal authorities are in the process of investigating the bombing, but would not comment on any possible motives, the press said.

The attack on a news media facility represents one of the new tactics of organized crime, according to CPJ research. In February, gunmen attacked the facilities of two media companies in the city of Torreón, during which a TV engineer was shot to death and equipment was destroyed and stolen. Torreón is located in the same north central region as Saltillo.

In 2010, more than a dozen news facilities were attacked with either guns or explosives, the local press said. For the most part damage was minor, as were the casualties. These acts of violence are seen as an easy way for criminal gangs to keep constant pressure on the press to not report on them, especially in regions where drug traffickers battle for territorial control, CPJ research shows.

“In Mexico, organized crime continues to spread terror among members of the media without any consequence. The government of President Felipe Calderón must not tolerate criminal intimidation of the press into silence,” said Lauría.

Drug-related violence now makes Mexico one of the world’s most dangerous countries for the press, according to CPJ research. Eleven journalists have been killed since 2010, at least three in direct reprisal for their work. CPJ is investigating to determine whether the other eight deaths were related to the journalists’ work.